Sedimentary rocks are formed by the deposition and cementation of particles eroded from older rocks of whatever composition, produced directly by biological or volcanic activity, or precipitated directly from water.  As such, they are records of past environmental conditions at the Earth’s surface, containing information on climate, tectonics, sea-level and ecology. Despite comprising only a small fraction of the Earth’s crust by volume, they cover over 70% of its surface, and often host significant economic resources such as hydrocarbons, mineral deposits and water.   Our research aims to develop new insights into the dynamics of sedimentary environments, the processes by which surficial sediments become incorporated into the rock record, and how applied and industrial workflows can be informed by fundamental research.

We are active across seven continents, looking at modern and ancient environments, both on land and under the sea. We work on deserts, volcanoes, rivers, shallow seas and deep-marine settings.   Our research embraces fieldwork and laboratory studies, physical and numerical modelling, and the analysis of seismic and metadata.   Research themes include the fluid dynamics of Newtonian and non-Newtonian flows (both single- and multiphase), with varying types, sizes and proportions of particulate material and carrier fluid, the interplay between tectonics and sedimentation, and biogenic carbonate environments. Our study of clastic sediment transport and deposition spans the full concentration spectrum from dilute turbulent eolian systems, through gravity current processes, to shear flow and post-depositional sediment re-mobilisation.

We work in the Sorby Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, a NERC-recognised facility.

Current areas of research

• Eolian processes and their deposits
• Fluvial processes and their deposits
• Lahars
• Submarine gravity currents (debris flows, turbidity currents hybrid flows) and their deposits, including channel and lobe formation
• Injectites
• Bedform dynamics
• Tectonics and sedimentation
• Carbonate platforms and ramps
• Architectural and diagenetic controls on reservoir quality
• Palaeoenvironments
• Palaeoenvironmental controls on source to sink transfer;
• Sequence stratigraphic methods
• Source rock characterisation

Much of our research is conducted via Joint Industry Projects, which are oil industry-funded research consortia.

Current projects funded by industry

Further information

View all members of our research group and our recent projects and publications.

PhD projects

We have opportunities for prospective PhD students. Find out more.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss an area of research in more detail please contact the Research Group Lead: Professor Bill McCaffrey.